Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate. At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.
Is all Processed Food Bad?
“Processing is not always bad,” says Jessica Fanzo, assistant professor of nutrition at Columbia University. “Often processing removes toxins or bacteria, or allows for us to eat certain types of foods in off-season due to freezing or canning.” (Pasteurized milk, anyone?) Processing “can also include altering the consistency or taste of food to make it more appealing,” Fanzo adds. So that delicious post-workout kale-celery-spinach–banana smoothie you had? Enjoy that virtuous feeling knowing that you were likely able to down that giant amount of greens because your treat was somewhat processed.
Still, even though pasteurized milk, kale smoothies, and instant oatmeal are all processed, that doesn’t make them on par with doughnuts and Diet Coke.
“The key is to avoid foods that are ‘ultra-processed,'” says Fanzo — basically, anything food-product-like or ready-to-heat.”
How to Eat Clean
Unprocessed foods include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Dried legumes
- Farm-fresh eggs
Minimally processed foods include:
- Unrefined grains, like whole wheat bread and pasta, popcorn, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice
- Frozen fruits and vegetables
- Unprocessed meat; wild over pastured, pastured over grain-fed
- Hormone-free dairy
Pesticide-free organic food is preferable to avoid consuming added hormones or chemicals. It’s also important to note that eating clean doesn’t give you free reign to eat endless quantities. They may be healthy, but they still have calories!
“You always have to think about portion size,” says Marissa Lippert, RD, owner of Nourish Kitchen + Table, a seasonally influenced cafe in New York. “I always encourage people to think of their plate in terms of fifths: three-fifths should be fruits and vegetables, one-fifth should be protein, and one-fifth healthy carbs.”
How to Identify Processed Foods
What to Avoid:
- Avoid all over-processed foods, particularly white flour and sugar
- Avoid all chemically charge foods
- Avoid foods containing preservatives
- Avoid artificial sugars
- Avoid artificial foods such as processed cheese slices
- Avoid saturated and trans fats
- Avoid sugar loaded beverages, including sodas and juices
- Avoid or do your best to limit alcohol intake.
- Avoid all calorie dense foods containing little or no nutritional value. I call these anti-foods
- Avoid super sizing your meals
- AVOID ANYTHING that contains the following on the label:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup
- MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
- Modified, Genetically-modified, etc.
- From concentrate
- TIP: When you see the words “diet”, “sugar-free” or “lite”, chances are it contains artificial sweeteners like Aspartame which is POISON!
Also focus on how much you are eating and when